My alarm goes off at 7:30 a.m. Groggily, I roll over and turn it off before it wakes up my roommates. I force myself out of bed, into tennis shoes, and out the door. I get to the gym around 7:50 and hop on the treadmill before my body even realizes what's happening. After ten minutes of high-intensity cardio, my mind and body are fully awake. I move to the weights section and complete a leg workout in 30 minutes. I end by stretching and giving myself gratitude and appreciation before starting the day. When I get back to my room, I make a bowl of oatmeal with bananas, honey, cinnamon, and most importantly, peanut butter. I eat, shower, and head out the door.

This is how I start every day. By going to the gym and moving my body, I awaken my mind. I give myself time to ease into my day. I allow myself to sweat and work hard and maybe even shake a little. I challenge myself and feel rewarded both mentally and physically. I stretch out my limbs and give myself a second to simply breathe.

Working out is immensely important. Obviously, it is beneficial for your physical health and well-being. But a deeper benefit comes with mental health. Working out keeps me sane throughout the craziness of college. It is the one time of day I am completely selfish and focused on myself. I can put in headphones, blast music, and spend an hour doing whatever I decide. I typically try to go to the gym alone, as this is the only time I really can be.

Exercising is the largest stress-reliever. Moving my body clears my head and gives me time to re-focus my thoughts. When I eventually do turn back to school work, I feel motivated and refreshed. Before every big exam or presentation, I always make it to the gym first to relieve anxiety and gather energy. Nothing better prepares my mind for the day than being able to think of nothing but my legs running and my arms pumping up and down.

Working out, especially in the early morning, isn't for everyone. And that's okay. Exercising provides structure and routine for me. It gets me out of bed in the morning and sets me up for personal success for the rest of the day. However, I believe that everyone can find something similar to working out that provides them relief from stress and the opportunity to be self-indulgent. Perhaps that is knitting, or coloring, or reading. Maybe it's waking up to watch the sunrise or carving out time to watch it set. No matter what it is, everyone needs an hour a day for themselves. An hour to be selfishly and completely focused on oneself. This hour will provide benefits beyond merely making a scarf or snagging beautiful pictures of the sky or getting toned arms.

For me, the gym is a relief. It is something I look forward to every single day. Without this hour to myself, I might go crazy. So get to the gym, or pick up knitting needles, or buy a coloring book. Because self-care is not selfish. It is necessary.